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May
18

GOD DAMN WHICH AMERICA?

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The Reverend Wright is back in play. A group of Romney supporters has recently placed, then pulled, an ad related to the controversial clergyman and his relationship with President Obama.

Governor Romney has taken the “high” road, as strategy would dictate. Nonetheless, the issue of Wright is still relevant. It is relevant as a political issue, and it is relevant as an example of the psychological defense mechanism of denial.

For those few who still don’t know about this, the issue relates to a video of Obama’s long term pastor, who married him and Michelle and who led the congregation Obama attended for about twenty years. In the video, Wright is seen clearly and repeatedly saying words such as, “Goddamn America.”

First is the question of what he meant by that. America is complex, so what exactly was he damning about America? The land? The system of government? The racial balance of power? Let’s keep that question in mind, as the rest of the story unfolds.

Second, the link between Obama and Wright was strained when the story broke. Wright would not disavow his sentiments. He went (or was sent) on the talk show circuit, apparently as an attempt to smooth his positions and humanize him. However, Wright was true to his sentiments and instead of backing off and showing himself as a loyal “American”, he continued to promote his view. That was too much for the Obama camp and, ostensibly at least, Obama disavowed a connection with him going forward. Since, Wright has drifted into political obscurity.

Third, to understand the implications of the situation, which is what is denied, not just by the Obama camp, but by many Americans as well, one has to put himself or herself in the position of young Obama, walking into a church, and hearing anti-American rhetoric. What would you do? Think about it. Put yourself in his position. Would you sit there and not return? Would you call the FBI? Would you leave immediately, or would you return again and again? Think about it, for that was the situation young Obama was in.

Fourth, if one is to be president of all the people in a country, how can he have any part in asking God to damn even a part of it. Damning is far from criticizing.

Now back to the first issue, what was Wright damning, and what was not so bad about being a part of it for young and older Obama? Basically, given the racial context involved, it was the mainstream, the non-black, non-colored, white establishment AND ITS VALUES. That’s what happens when one is angry at not belonging. There is the tendency to go beyond just belonging. There is the tendency to continue expressing anger by casting down that to which one wanted to belong, or at least that which one did not want to be excluded from or overpowered by.

Here, the reality principle is at hand. Does one allow the pleasure of expressing anger to hold sway over the reality that the result will be neither for either? Put more simply,  do two wrongs make a right? That is part of the issue at hand.

The other part is the denial on the part of the American populace. Remember, denial as a defense mechanism in anyone who is not psychotic is denial not of the reality, but of the implications of that reality. The alcoholic father doesn’t deny he drinks. What he denies is the implications of his drinking, such as domestic violence or embarrassing behavior at his daughter’s wedding.

So, what is Romney to do? Given his strategy in the primaries, he will distance himself from implying what the populace denies. This is because facing the implications of condoning damning of one’s country, which some would call treason, is too much for the populace to face. If Romney is smart, and he is smart, he will avoid confronting the American people with their defense.

Whenever one is confronted with a defense, one gets angry and rejects the confronter. After all, defenses, denial included, exist to protect us from anxiety. Confronting them, i.e. saying they are just a defense, strips away the barrier to anxiety, leaving the person feeling anxious, scared, worried, and all the other shadings of anxiety. It feels bad to be scared, so the reaction often is to attack whoever made you feel bad. That is why Romney must steer clear of confronting people. That is why he will take the “high” road.

The interesting thing here, however, is that he seems not just to ignore the confrontation, but to have convinced his supporters to ignore it. Perhaps Romney sees the implication of the confrontation, implications he cannot deny. Perhaps he sees the issue as being taken as religious or racial, and not patriotic. If so, the danger for him is the backlash. That is, he does not need his own religion brought into the fray.

He also does not need yet another distraction from what most believe is the main issue of the campaign, which is. . .the economy, stupid!

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Barack Obama’s recent endorsement of gay marriage is his latest political move. The question is why and why now.

Clearly, the issue has been on the table for a while, i.e. a matter of discussion. Could Joe Biden’s “slip” on Meet the Press merely have brought the issue to the fore, with Obama unable to hedge on it anymore? On the other hand, was the “slip” not a slip at all, but a trial balloon? Whatever the case, Biden’s remarks seem to have emboldened the gay/lesbian activists to pressure Obama to come out of his political closet on the issue.

Whatever the case, the move is risky for Obama. After all, many states have banned gay marriage. In those where it has passed, the numbers in favor were not overwhelming. Thus, Obama risks losing the middle on this issue, while he may have energized the gay constituency in his favor.

Another question is, “Why now?” Well, if Biden’s statements were truly slips, then Obama’s hand was forced. On the other hand, Obama likely has lots of polls showing which states will react which way depending on his stand. If that is the case, and the polls indicated he’d not lose much by declaring, doing so was not so risky. That is, he measured the risk before taking the step.

But why could he not have waited longer, until the height of the election season, when gay/lesbian energy would be important and when he could measure the likely reaction more accurately? If the polls changed, he could just defer his declaration.

The answers are not clear. Obama is certainly a risk taker, albeit a calculated, disciplined one. For example, he took a big risk in the Bin Laden murder and won.

On the other hand, it just could be that Obama saw private polls that were very worrisome. Perhaps he needed the gay/lesbian support, fearing erosion of general support. If so, declaring now was more an act of desperation.

The answer will unfold, as we approach the conventions and the polls.

The important thing for the educated voter is to realize that either risk or desperation could be at play.

 

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Vice-President Joe Biden’s interview on Meet The Press revealed one of the strategies the Obama campaign will be using in the upcoming general election: Splitting.

Biden insisted the Republican Party was not itself, but had been taken over by the Tea Partiers. He then minimized the outlandishness of such a possibility by saying the Democratic Party in 1972 was taken over by the liberals and that take-overs occurred as a matter of course in American political parties.

Whether his assertion was commonplace or not, the end result is an attempt to split the GOP. If main stream Republicans really believe their party has been “taken over”, they will be focusing some of their attention on their innards, the Tea Party, instead of the presidential race. If they really believe they have been taken over by the Tea Party, they will feel at odds with it and, if Biden is successful, less likely to support their party as intensely.
Splitting the other side is a strategy Republican Newt Gingrich touched on in one of the debates during the primary season. He pointed out that unemployment in higher than average in the Hispanic population and much higher than average in the African-American population. His rhetorical question followed: “So, what has Obama done for you?” That would be an attempt to split the AA voter from the President.

In psychiatry, splitters are dealt with, not just endured. They are dealt with by the two apparently split sides (main stream and Tea Party Republicans) confronting the splitter (Biden) and telling him clearly they are not split. Rather they say, they are of a single mind.

So, the GOP strategists need to see the splitting strategy on the wall, before it gathers steam. Then they have to counter it.

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Apr
02

Gaming The Unemployment Game

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As most people are not unemployed, most people have no idea how the unemployment game works. To understand it, let’s look at how unemployment benefits worked prior to the Internet age.

Way back then, anyone qualifying for unemployment benefits had to show he or she was looking for work. Each week they would have to come to the unemployment office IN PERSON, stand in an ONEROUS line, and, when finally at the front, show the agent three forms signed by owners who turned them down for work that week. In other words, they had to demonstrate they were actually looking for work, not just gaming the system. And, boy was that tough.

In the Internet age, it’s a lot different. People apply online, check in online, and say whether they actually looked for work online. None of that IN PERSON, IN LINE, three  signatures onerous stuff anymore. One could be in Italy and check in, never having actually looked for work. All you had to do was say you were. Click.

Well, just think what would happen if the unemployment department’s website went down, say for a week, or just in some places. Why, that would mean people would have to stop by the office, IN PERSON, and wait IN LINE to show they actually looked for a job and were unable to get one.

What would happen is that many of the people who were not serious about looking for a job and did not need the money all that much would just not go down to the unemployment office IN PERSON and stand IN LINE, that onerous line.

Then, of course, with less people getting unemployment benefits, the unemployment rate would drop. Let me say that again. With less people getting unemployment benefits, the unemployment rate would drop.

So, if it has not dawned on you yet, the unemployment game can be gamed.

Watch closely, as the election approaches, for any glitches in the unemployment department’s website. It may just decide the election!

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Mar
28

The Judge’s Psyche

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Ever wonder what goes through the mind of a judge? Well, there are many things and many judges. Nonetheless, there are some common themes, as one who has done a fair amount of testifying and watching judges might tell you.

First, we assume judges are comfortable making decisions. After all, that’s their job. However, through the eyes of this psychiatrist, not so. Every decision they make has the potential of creating an enemy. Ever wonder why they take cases under advisment. I am sure sometimes they actually seek the advice of other judges. More than likely, however, it is to avoid a direct, eye to eye confrontation with the party they find against. They just pocket the case and let the lawyers know their decision via their clerks or paperwork.

Second, enemy avoidance aside, they don’t want to aggrieve a party. There is some guilty anxiety involved in hurting one of the parties.

So, one the one hand, they experience uncomfortableness (anxiety) at being hurt, and on the other hand of hurting. What a position!

So, while in the former case, they sometimes hide behind advisement, in the latter they often try to assuage the hurt, and therefore their anxiety, by saying a few nice things to or about the eventual loser. “You have a good point there.” “You were aggrieved.” Sometimes, they do it by saying something negative to the eventual winner, making the eventual loser feel better. It’s all about feelings, you see.

Anyway, beware when the judge makes you think you’ve got a good case, or that the other side has a bad one. The reversal will come.

So, in the Obamacare case before the Supreme Court, get your act more together and fight harder when the judge seems like he or she will find for you.

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Mar
26

The Truth About Obamacare

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The arguments offered for and against Obamacare are overdone and reflect more the current unconscious differences between the American political parties (see other posts) than the most relevance part of it: It moves us toward a single payer system.

First, who is the single payer? The federal government.

Second, what does this mean? It means socialized medicine.

Third, why does that matter? Because it lowers quality of healthcare.

Fourth, why does it lowers quality of healthcare? Because it just does. See the socialized systems of Europe, Canada–and America. For the latter, see the VA system and ask veterans about it.

So, while the Democrats say we have to cover the helpless uncovered, and the Republicans say it costs too much, they both miss the point. The point is that if we let the government run healthcare, healthcare will be less for all.

How will this occur? It will occur by rationing, by disorganization, and, most of all, by history. That’s just how governments work: inefficiently. Remember, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

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With the recent swing of North Korean nuclear threats comes a question: What’s the point?

Well, North Korea gets the point, because each gambit affects even the mighty West. At the same time, the mighty West misses the point, which is why Obama offers a so-called rational explanation of his policies to decrease America’s nuclear capability.

We have more than we need, he says. Well, that sounds rational enough. We assessed the number of nuclear warheads we’d need to wipe out our enemies. Then we assess the likelihood of any of these failing. If we need 100 successful trips from ours silos to enemy cities, and the failure rate is 10%, well, we need 110 warheads in the silos. Rational.

But is it rational to act on irrational perceptions of power. Or, would the psychologically minded among us agree that ration is all that matters?

Yes, ration misses the point. The point is that when people perceive you are powerful and care about being powerful, you are fearsome. That is why the 800 gorilla gets to sit wherever he or she wants to. It is because that 800 pound gorilla can maim any of us other gorillas. Even if it doesn’t want to wield such power, watch out, because it could change its mind and use it.

That is the point of the perception of power. If a country cares about power and shows it, e.g by building up its arsenal, the perception is that it could and would use it. However, if the 800 pound gorilla backs away like a baby Huey (the fearful giant), the perception is that it will not use that power.

Remember, people–and animals–make decisions based on the perception of power. That is why a male challenging the pack leader backs off once he perceives that leader is more powerful–and ready, willing, and able (RWA)–to use that power. If the pack leader is truly more powerful but is not perceived as RWA to use that power, the challenger continues to fight.

That is why the Turkish leader Ataturk, and many before and after him, have held off challengers–they created the perception of power. That is why the West annihilated Sadam Hussein, because he, though a challenger, was perceived as having power and being RWA to use it. That is why Hitler, once perceiving the West was not RWA to use power, continued his exploits. The same for Castro after the unwillingness of the West to use its power. And I can go on and on.

The perception of power precipitates peace. Everybody moves aside and lets that 800 pound gorilla take whatever seat it wants. Peace is  the point of the perception of power.

And when the mightiest country in the West deemphasizes its power, the perception is that it is not ready, or not willing, or not able to use it. It is irrational to act against the meaning countries make of any cutback in the RWA of power. It invites more North Korean antics, not less.

There are unconscious reasons why a large segment of any population does not get this, while others get it intuitively. These reasons will be covered in other posts.

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The discussion is heating up over Iran, with unveiled threats from Israel to strike. At the same time, Obama begs Israel to delay. These are the dots, but how do we connect them? That is, what do we pull out of the morass of information swirling around us that helps us understand this heated public negotiation?

Well, one line to use is the need of Israel. Israel, however, can certainly strike Iran, whether from above or within. So why is Israel now openly saying it will strike?

The answer is found in the psychology of negotiations, easily seen every season in pro sports. When a star player’s contract is coming due, he wants to get the highest salary in his next contract. So, instead of saying he wants to play for the big market team, he says he loves his current team and wants to stay there for the rest of his career. He does so, because that bids up his salary from other teams (and his). They now have to bid higher to get him to leave his current team, where his alleged ties are, a city he so dearly loves. 

So, what’s the salary Israel wants from Obama? And why would Obama need to offer it? Well, Israel needs bunker busting bombs. Without them, it will lose its sons and daughters in any post Iran-bombing ground war with Hamas and Hezbollah  just like a few years ago.

What does Obama want? He wants peace at election time. He wants stability, as he approaches the elections. He can get it, if he and Israel strike a deal. What’s the deal? Connect the dots, and you’ll see that he’ll find a way to justify giving Israel bunker busting bombs and some of whatever else Israel wants to “stay with its current team”, i.e. to continue to refrain from striking Iran.

Now, Obama is certainly no dope. So in this  case, it becomes a game of chicken. If Obama delays sending Israel what it wants, Israel will likely turn up the pressure, for example by killing more Iranian scientists and saying that is not enough. Gee, Mr. President, we are really up against the ropes. We’ll have to bomb Iran. It could cost you the election, though.

Who will blink first. Will Obama blink and send the bunker bombs to ensure peace by election time? Will Israel back off from bombing threats, so as not to anger the president of its sole benefactor? Let’s  see who blinks first.

In politics, just as in sports and so much else of life, it is always necessary to read between the lines and listen with the third ear, just as psychiatrists do, to understand what’s really going on under the surface.

P.S. Hamas is trying to weaken Israel’s perceived need for the bunker bombs by stating publicly it will not bomb Israel. Does it think Israel will no longer think it needs bunker busting bombs from Obama? No, but Hamas might think American support for Israel will quiet, if it “promises” it will not bomb. Once again, it is both ends against the middle for Israel. Let’s see who blinks.

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The discussion of Barack Obama’s religion surfaces from time to time. Unfortunately, most commentators focus on the concrete, not the profound.

For one, the fact that Obama or anyone else says he is of a certain religion does not define that person’s religious beliefs. He says he is Christian. Does that mean he holds traditional Christian beliefs? No. His statement that he is a Christian is not the end of the debate.
What really matters is what is in a person’s heart, which is harder to define. It is what his sympathies are at the very least that is more important. Though we cannot get the answers from him directly, we can infer them from various aspects of his life.

First, both his father and his step-father were Muslim. He did not know his father, but his father is a primary identification figure for him, as with all of us, whether we like it or not.
When it comes to his step-father, is it beyond comprehension that he would have made statements supportive of the Muslim religion and Muslim issues? Even if he never said a critical word about America, he certainly would be expected to have made pro-Muslim statements and held pro-Muslim values.

Next, Obama spent some of his formative years in a Muslim country. Is it too much to imagine there would be pro-Muslim values expressed there? What about his friends? What about the newspapers? Does any sophisticated thinker really think he did not hear value after value that was pro-Muslim? Anyone growing up in America would hear pro-Christian values over and over, wouldn’t he? So why wouldn’t young Obama have heard, over and over, Muslim values?

Now let’s look at his words. Yes, the famous Freudian slip on ABC News. You can hear them in the YouTube video below. Basically, when he meant to say, “My Christian faith,” he said instead, “My Muslim faith.” The moderator corrects the slip, as people do. Obama then follows, also by correcting it.

Now let’s look at the psychological defense of denial. Denial is a term tossed around all through our society. Here’s what it really means: Denial is when a person denies the implications of something, not the fact of it. The alcoholic, for example, does not deny he drinks. What he denies is the implications of his drinking. This includes caustic words to his family, embarrassing them in social situations, driving problems, etc.

This is just what happens when people deny the truth in a Freudian slip. Well, reporters might use denial. Supporters might also use denial. However, let’s take the case of the man who slips and calls his girlfriend or wife by the wrong name. Do you think she denies the implications of the slip? Really? Really?

More, let’s look at some of Obama’s behavior. He bowed to a Muslim king. Is this a Christian value? Is it a secular value? No to both. It is a Muslim value.

Yet another behavioral example of Obama’s occurred with Israel. What led to the Israelis feeling so betrayed by him is that he changed the understandings about settlements and development. He included areas that had been excluded beforehand. That is, the Israelis developed land in areas that were acceptable to former U.S. administrations. When Obama changed the boundary lines, of course the development would appear excessive.

Electing a Muslim-leaning president right after Muslims attacked us and Muslim leaders were either supportive or silent on the issue is quite self destructive, to say the least. It can be seen as pathological by many. It is a clear example of what is called reaction formation. I’ll define that psychological defense  later. Basically, however, many, many American were anxious about something and coped with that anxiety by taking the opposite stance. Instead of saying they were suspicious of someone with Muslim origins, they embraced him.

In any case, now let’s ask the question: Is Obama’s Religion Really Relevant?

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Empathy is understanding others. It is generally achieved by considering how you would feel, if in the other person’s situation. I have talked about it before regarding its difficulty. For example, the law abiding citizen has trouble understanding how the freedom to bear arms lowers the crime rate, compared to countries prohibiting citizens to have guns. The understanding, however, becomes easy, once Mr. or Ms. LawAbiding considers how Mr. or Ms. CriminalMind thinks. For example, if you were going to rob someone, wouldn’t you wonder if he or she had a weapon. What if your potential victim had a gun, on his person or in his home. You just might think twice.
Limits of empathy exist is other aspects of life relevant to politics. For example, when the Republicans say, “Give us our country back!” they are heard one way by some people, but in a different way by others. Those others mights think, “Hell, no. You’ve had it real good. Now it’s my turn.” These would be the millions who have felt the country was not really for them, or that they really did not belong. Some racial groups feel this. Some women feel this.
Thus, it is important to think twice about whom you are talking to. Conservatives vying for the nomination would generally be heard positively by Republican conservatives. However, in the general election. lots of non-conservatives will be listening. How, then, does one propose a policy or a direction without alienating the other side. Well, once real empathy is achieved, it’s not so hard. The idea is to be gentlemanly and consider the other side’s feelings.
This is what George Bush did rather successfully in 2000. He said he was a Compassionate Conservative. Now, the male values of the GOP hear “conservative”, while the female values of the Democrats hear “compassionate”. He addressed the values of both sides.
The same holds with image. The male GOP values substance. The female Democrats tolerate, if not value, image. We could get down and intimate here, but let’s remember that women who wear wigs are not the subject of ridicule, but men who do are. Women hide wrinkles with make-up. Men do not. I don’t think I need to go further. In fact, about the only false thing men are OK with is teeth.
So, in 2008 Barack Obama went to the Brandenburg Gate. That’s where Kennedy went, and that’s where Reagan went. Republicans might have said, “Who does that guy think he is, the president?” How false. Man, it’s bad and worthy of criticism to be false. On the other hand, millions of other did not disparage him for assuming the image of president, when he was only a candidate.
The Republicans, with generally male values, must understand the Democrats, with many unconscious and conscious female values, just like the Democrats must understand the Republicans. To ignore these realities and not keep the other side’s feelings and values in mind is politically risky–and thus stupid. To address the other side’s values and feelings is, on the other hand, politically smart.

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